[NFBC-Info] Fwd: [Cagdu] FW: GDB Information - Response to the Department of Transportation Notice of Public Rule Making

Shannon Dillon shannonldillon at gmail.com
Thu Apr 2 20:06:03 UTC 2020

Good afternoon,
Below is the message from Guide Dogs for the Blind to its graduates
concerning comments to the Department of Transportation's Notice of
Proposed Rulemaking. It also includes GDB's comments for information
and reference.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: tina.thomas90044 at gmail.com
Date: Thu, 2 Apr 2020 09:54:29 -0700
Subject: [Cagdu] FW: GDB Information - Response to the Department of
Transportation Notice of Public Rule Making
To: cagdu at nfbcal.org

Subject: GDB Information - Response to the Department of
Transportation Notice of Public Rule Making

Greetings GDB Alumni –

I want to start by thanking all of you who took the time to complete
the survey we sent out in February about the proposed rulemaking from
the Department of Transportation regarding people traveling by air
with service animals.  We received 320 responses!  From this
information we were able to insure that the response coming from GDB
would reflect your opinions.  We have evaluated the information and
have prepared the response below.  I have also attached a copy of the
entire document from the DOT outlining their proposed changes.

Also, we encourage you to give your feedback to the DOT directly,  and
please ask your family and friends to do the same.  Here’s how to

You may file comments identified by the docket number
DOT-OST-2018-0068 by any of the following methods:

• Federal eRulemaking Portal: go to http://www.regulations.gov and
follow the online instructions for submitting comments.

• Mail: Docket Management Facility, U.S. Department of Transportation,
1200 New Jersey Ave. SE, West Building Ground Floor, Room W12-140,
Washington, DC 20590-0001.

• Hand Delivery or Courier: West Building Ground Floor, Room W12-140,
1200 New Jersey Ave. SE, between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. ET, Monday
through Friday, except Federal holidays.

• Fax: (202) 493-2251

Comments need to be made by April 6th 2020.

GDB’s Official Response To The DOT:

Guide Dogs for the Blind

Response to the DOT ACAA NPRM

Docket ID: DOT-OST-2018-0068.

Guide Dogs for the Blind (GDB) appreciates the Department of
Transportation’s (DOT) thoughtful consideration of the needs of
passengers with disabilities who require the use of service animals.
We praise the DOT’s productive and inclusive process of reaching out
to stakeholders to develop effective regulations.  We are encouraged
by the move toward aligning the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) with the
ADA’s definition of service animals. We are, however, concerned that
certain aspects of the DOT’s proposal represent a step backward for
disabled individuals who are traveling with highly-trained, legitimate
service animals.

As the largest organization in North America training guide dog teams,
GDB also felt it was important to survey its clients to ascertain
their views on the proposed rule-making. Three hundred and twenty
respondents completed the survey; their feedback is reflected in our
response below.

Definition of service animals:

In response to a survey of our 2,200 graduates, 95% of respondents
applaud the DOT aligning its definition of a service animal with the
Americans with Disabilities Act.  Given the present ambiguity and
confusion over service animals, we strongly support the DOT’s adoption
of the Department Of Justice’s definition which defines a service
animal as a dog that is individually trained to do work or perform
tasks for the benefit of a person with a qualified disability.

Emotional support animals:

We agree with the DOT that emotional support animals are not service
animals as they have not been trained as such. Emotional support
animals (ESA) are in reality pets and should be defined and considered
as such under the ACAA.  The alarming increase of fraudulent use of
ESAs for public access has confused the public and caused legitimate
service animal handlers undue hardship.  Airlines for America and the
International Air Transport Association state that they have seen a
56% increase of ESAs from 2016 to 2017.  The explosion of these
untrained animals, their potential for unpredictable, poor and even
dangerous behavior, and the confusion they have caused about service
animals, was reflected by 97% of respondents to our survey reporting
public discrimination against them as people with a disability.

Health form:

The information sought by this form is not necessary given that health
risks posed by dogs have not been of significant concern historically.
71% of our clients who completed our survey oppose this requirement.
The practical implications of such a requirement on both the
passengers and the airlines are unreasonable.  We believe this
requirement would pose an undue burden for people with disabilities
traveling with service animals as they would incur costs from
veterinary visits and would not be able to fly with short notice.

Behavior and training attestation:

Over half of the respondents to our survey oppose the requirement of a
DOT form attesting to the behavior and training of their service
animals.  Such attestation is only a personal assurance of the dog’s
behavior and does not guarantee the dog will act appropriately. Again
we believe this requirement poses another barrier for individuals who
wish to travel on short notice and serves to punish those who seldom
are the perpetrators of poorly behaved animals on board. We believe
that airline staff can observe the dog’s behavior prior to departure
and if a dog is behaving in a manner that threatens the health and
safety of others, the dog should be removed.

Relief attestation form:

Attesting to the dog’s relieving habits does not guarantee a mishap
will not occur.  Furthermore, unexpected delays of aircraft departure
are a significant factor that is not within the passenger’s control.
In practice, this is a futile and unenforceable attestation. It is
worth noting, that legitimate service animals are trained to relieve
on a fixed schedule and rarely have accidents.

Large service animals:

We disagree with the requirement to limit the size of service animals
unless it poses a safety risk.

Service animals breed or type:

We disagree with the requirement to limit dog breeds.  A variety of
dog breeds have been trained successfully as working service animals.
 Regardless of breed, we fully agree that the service animal handler
should be in full control of his/her animal at all times.  Service
animals should be harnessed, leashed, or otherwise tethered in the
airport and when on-board the aircraft at all times.  The handler
should be responsible for caring for the service animal including
feeding, watering, and relieving.  The handler may be charged for
property damage caused by his/her animal.  We support airline staff
removing dogs that are not fully under their handler’s control with or
without a form on file.  We support airline staff exercising
appropriate discretion in ascertaining whether an animal poses a
threat or other problem on board; based on observable behavior, not

Check-in requirement:

Checking in an hour earlier than the general public poses an undue
burden on legitimate service animal handlers and is opposed by GDB and
75% of our survey respondents.  The current 2-hour requirement for
domestic flights already adds significant time to a passenger’s travel
schedule.  Considering that airport animal relief areas are few and
far between, the additional time increases the risk of relieving


Although we are encouraged by the proposed rule making regarding
emotional support animals, some aspects of the proposed DOT NPRM
represent a discriminatory set of regulations towards people living
with disabilities. These proposals serve to deny individuals with
disabilities equal consideration for ease of travel imposing
restrictions on their livelihood, job opportunities, and family and
civic engagement.  The proposed forms of attestations are, at best a
hindrance, and at worst a complete barrier for a blind guide dog
handler needing to catch a flight.  If one’s college-age child gets
hurt requiring an impromptu flight to attend to them, what is a parent
with disability to do?  Attending a job interview?  A funeral? If
one’s livelihood requires frequent air travel, what is that worker
with a disability to do?  Locating the right forms in a hurry,
accessing them in time, gathering medical records under pressure, not
to mention  checking in with the airline 3-4 hours before flight
departure, every time one attempts to fly, is not reasonable
accommodation.   Requiring unnecessary documentation is an
unacceptable barrier for disabled air passengers with legitimate
service animals.  Furthermore, these requirements fail to address the
underlying problem of fraudulent service animals.

In summary, we propose that the DOT support air passengers with
disabilities’ access to air carriers by enforcing the ADA definition
of disabilities.  This clarification of definition will reduce
fraudulent service animals considerably.  Misguided regulations impose
undue burdens on people with disabilities who need to travel by air.
These regulations violate their civil and human rights and fail to
address the very problems they are trying to solve.

GDB also encourages the DOT and airlines to work with legitimate
service dog handlers and organizations to influence legislation that
will crack down on the unethical sale of fraudulent “service dog”
equipment and certification online.

Secretary and Legislative Coordinator
National Federation of the Blind
of California
The National Federation of the Blind is a community of members and
friends who believe in the hopes and dreams of the nation’s blind.
Every day we work together to help blind people live the lives they
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